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Sea level rise poses risk to KZN property

  Saturday, 31 October 2015
 Lebo Tshangela (SABC News)
Sea level rise poses risk to KZN property

Sea level rise has caused soil erosion in Amanzimtoti (Desmon D'sa)

"Sea level rise due to climate change could cause damage to some of KwaZulu-Natal’s public property and infrastructure in the future."

This is according to eThekwini Municipality’s Project Executive in Coastal Policy, Dr Andrew Mather, who conducted research into sea level rise in Southern Africa and Durban particularly.

Sea level rise is when the water levels of the sea rise over period of time or inundates more area of land.

Speaking to SABC News, Mather says sea level rise is caused by climate change because of higher air temperatures which results in higher water temperatures.

"Water expands when it warms up, not by very much, but if you look at the whole ocean extension, it warms up by a couple of degrees, that expansion causes water to rise."

He says on KwaZulu-Natal coast the sea levels are rising annually and are the highest in Southern Africa. “In KZN the sea level rising was 2.7 m per year, the Cape they were rising by 1.6 m and the West coast and Namibia were rising by 1,8 m.”

You can remove the risk to whatever piece of infrastructure by relocating it inland
Mather says future projections are that sea level rise is not building up in a uniform manner, but that there is a slight acceleration.

“It’s like a speeding up of the level of sea level rise, mainly because of emissions and all the other things that humankind are doing to the planet’s climate, but if you look at that we get a slight acceleration.”

He says in a built up area there are only two options that really present themselves. “You can remove the risk to whatever piece of infrastructure by relocating it inland, unfortunately that is not always possible. A particular asset may need to stay in the position it is in, it could be a sewage pump station where its gravity feeds to the pump station …The only way to secure or reduce the risk to that structure is by ascending that piece of structure and that could be by sea protection around the structure.”

Mather says the municipality has had to relocate assets from the coast, but there are still significant areas and infrastructure of eThekwini coast which will still be in the risk zone in the future.

He says buildings in private ownership are not in the danger zone as town planners have stayed clear of coastal areas.

However, the South Durban Community Environmental Alliance Co-founder, Desmond D'Sa disagrees. He says sea level rise damages are already taking place and is not something that we are waiting for.

D'Sa says we are already starting to see soil erosion on some beaches, roads are already being washed away and a lot of property on beaches such as Amanzimtoti and Isipingo, and suburbs like Umhlanga Rocks are being damaged.

He says, “Government in Durban wants to build huge and massive flats for the rich at the Durban water point and that will result in huge problems.”

“Tongaat unit is building huge skyscrapers on the beach front, they are also thinking of building a  water wall through the Isipingo beach. Can you imagine if the sea level was to rise to 9m it will destroy all the informal settlements and manufacturing industries.”

D’sa says when developers apply for environment impact assessment from the provincial and national government to build along the coast and they approve it, then the eThekwini Municipality must  argue strongly against it.

He says if the municipality does not object then they are also going against their own policies and putting property at risk of sea level rising.

“Clearly in Durban Government is not listening and continues to ignore nature which will claim back the sea and land. Many of the incidents relating to flooding are directly linked to climate change. Already 25 licenses have been granted to drill for oil and gas off the coast of South Africa from Lake St Lucia. This destructive development will contribute to an even bigger impact on the rising of temperatures resulting sea level rising.”

 

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